Going Green Ends With Water from the Sea

desalinated water fish pipe undersea photo
Desalinated water is costly for Israel, and practically no one is talking about the hidden costs.

Making drinking water from sea water has been touted as a solution for water shortage in the Middle-East and elsewhere. In southern Israel, near Ashkelon, a small pilot project has been pumping out 24 million cubic meters of fresh drinking grade water into Israel’s water system since 2005. Currently expanding its output to add another 45 million cubic meters a year, the facility is planning to produce 120 million cubic meters of fresh drinking water annually by 2013. And Gaza’s about to get its own plant too!

When the Ashkelon plant went on the grid in 2005 using groundbreaking technology, the eyes of the world were watching with great interest. In an effort to deal with the challenges facing water management today, the Ashkelon facility offered an untried but hopeful solution. By applying a reverse osmosis system that had not yet been used on such a large scale the pilot project has proven to be extraordinarily successful.

With an on-site power plant operated by natural gas, the desalination facility pumps water from a point half a mile off the coast of Israel, filters it and then removes the water from the salt by running it through specially designed membranes. The water pumped by the Ashkelon plant currently supplies approximately 5% of Israel’s fresh water demand.

The reverse osmosis technology is considered to be the most effective technique available for the desalination of water. It’s long been in the middle of a persuasion campaign by Friends of the Earth Middle East in the Dead Sea, where they believe that installing such a system would benefit the rapidly falling water level in the Dead Sea.

However, while the fresh water plant in Ashkelon may represent a sort of utopian dream, sources in Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs report that without proper supervision such interference in Israel’s natural resources will in the long run incur a steep price.

The desalination process by means of reverse osmosis is done in two steps.

First, a variety of chemicals are added to the seawater to help filter the floating particles. Before the filtering process, iron, phosphorus and other minerals are added to the water to identify foreign material. Then, the water is separated from all other materials and added directly into Israel’s water supply. The excess material is then pumped back to the sea.

The excess material includes all of the foreign chemicals added in the desalination process as well as all of the excess salts left over at the end of the process and hot water.

These materials are all returned to the Mediterranean, about a half-mile off shore, near the point from which the sea water was originally pumped out.

Right now, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs seems perhaps rightfully worried. With several other desalination plants under construction on the shoreline south of Tel Aviv, we can expect major changes in the marine environment, if careful existing safety measures aren’t enforced.

With the major changes being led by business conglomerates, that see water as a valuable resource in the future, they’re not sure these business groups have the marine environment high on their list of priorities. With so much money to be made it is highly doubtful their plans take the preservation of Israel’s delicate marine environment into account.

The Ashkelon Desalination Plant offered no comment in response.

Guest author Sol Goodman is making a film about the Dead Sea.

Image of brine carried by pipe undersea by seastarenergy

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3 thoughts on “Going Green Ends With Water from the Sea”

  1. lucky says:

    “Desalination facilities use two basic technologies to extract potable water from seawater. Reverse osmosis works by forcing seawater through a semipermeable membrane, which restricts salt and other minerals, but allows water molecules to pass through. The second method is distillation where seawater is heated to produce steam, which is then condensed to produce water with a low salt concentration and few of the other impurities contained in the original water.”

    source :http://resources.ca.gov/ocean/97Agenda/Chap5Desal.html

    THERE ARE NO CHEMICALS ADDED, STOP SPEWING BS.

  2. Thank you for this article. It is legitimate to point out problems, but if we never advocate for the solution to them we are just going to be perpetually outraged.

    Desalination can end hunger, thirst, deaths from water born diseases, and end climate change by providing unlimited water for farming, drinking, sanitation, and for Hydrogen production.

    There are currently 15,000 desalination plants and there are problems with how they’re run. They use fossil fuels, use chemical, and can pollute local seawater with wastewater, but all of those issues can be solved and should not prevent from this technologies from saving the planet and humanity.

    The desalination plants could be powered by Solar, Wind, Tidal, and by burning Hydrogen and become zero emission and energy independent. Also they could not only be generating water but also Hydrogen with Solar, Wind, Tidal, and water and be facilitating all nations energy independence, which would also stop our need to fight wars for oil, and prevent oil spills, by facilitating our discontinuing to use Oil.

    100% Hydrogen burning cars clean the air as you drive by burning up pollution that is already in the air. Hydrogen could also be burned in power plants to make entire towns zero emission. Also fuel cells and burning hydrogen only produces water vapor, so the water is not lost.

    We already know how to make pipelines, so we could be having water pipelines from all the coasts of the world, and millions of desalination plants, to supply everyone with the water and fuel they need. Doing so could also Terraform the Earth, by piping in water to end droughts and stop desertification wherever we need to.

    There is an ocean of water right next to Somalia, they just don’t have the tool to access it, and we are not having the vision to see it, or making it a priority to get them the water they need.

    The chemicals that they use to purify and treat seawater before they desalinate it could be recycled, as well as the pollution that they take out of the water, and the extra salt could take to the north sea and put back where ever there is a problem with the oceans becoming desalinated from melting ice. = Resalinate the oceans!

    Your article failed to mention these kinds of solution, and spent more time complaining about problems instead of advocating for the solution to them.

    But you are right this article represents the end of the Green movement, because it shows the microscopic vision and small-minded cynicism of the “Green” people.

    I am advocating for going all the way and fully saving the planet by Going Clear with Solar, Wind, and Hydrogen and having Clear intention, Clear speech, and living 100% emission lives that lead to Clear skies, instead of Going Green making baby steps and finding ways to continue to use coal and oil, slightly more efficiently.

    I honor and respect Green people’s beautiful intention to do something, but its how you implement that intention that is the problem. Please be more solution oriented, have a more positive vision, and go all the way instead of only complaining and make baby steps.

    Because while you’re complaining about desalination, 33,000 children starved to death today, and will die tomorrow, and our planet is being killed with Coal and Oil pollution which is significantly more than the pollution pointed out in this article. We are all surrounded with unlimited water and zero emission fuel, we just have to see it being and go get it. Desalination could be saving lives and saving the planet, so stop opposing it and fix it, and let’s get on it already!

  3. JTR says:

    Thanks for that information, but sadly it’s the same old story of cost accounting the environment. I’m suprised Israel is capable of allowing such shameful pollution. Soon the Mediterranean Sea will be polluted beyond redemption, and other forms of pollution are spreading all around the World for the same reason, to save money. But unless we stop it soon the biosphere will collapse and everyone will die. Two things must be done as soon as possible: 1. Safely recycle 100% of all human-generated waste materials. 2. Peacefully reduce the human population with family planning education.

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